Best Kayaks for Dogs of 2018 & Buying Guide
Kayaking with your dog is a great way to enjoy the sport even more, and can help your pup explore nature in a new, fun way. If he’s afraid of water, he can still experience the smells and sights around him, while staying dry and comfortable; if he loves it, he’ll have a blast jumping in and playing fetch with you in the middle of the lake.
Today’s kayaks come in a range of sizes and materials, each with a unique configuration; some can accommodate dogs perfectly, and others can’t. Knowing which will suit your pup is a tough call, so we’ve compiled five of the best kayaks for paddling out with your favorite furry co-pilot.
Are there safety concerns with bringing my dog kayaking?
Before you call your dog into the kayak, there are some important factors to consider, for his safety—and yours.
- Does he like water? Even if your dog loves splashing in a baby pool or biting at the sprinkler, he might not love the idea of being out in the middle of a lake, surrounded on all sides. Don’t try to force your dog to enjoy kayaking: if he seems panicked or skittish when you put him in or near the kayak or water, it’s best to forget the idea (or train him to enjoy it, slowly).
- Can your kayak handle him? Is your kayak large enough for your dog, and can it handle the weight of you, him, and any other passengers on board, as well as all necessary gear? Is it made of something strong enough to handle his nails—or even his teeth?
- Is he familiar with the kayak already? Before heading out on the water, let your dog practice sitting in the canoe on land. This will familiarize him with the watercraft early, so he isn’t trying to figure out two new things—the kayak, and the water—at once.
- Is he old or frail? Can you lift him safely? If your dog can’t safely board the kayak on his own, you’ll have to help. Make sure you can comfortably lift the dog on your own, and consider purchasing assistance harnesses or ramps if the job’s a little too tough.
- How well does he listen? If your dog doesn’t know the commands of stay, sit, lie down, and leave it (especially important if he spots an animal under the surface, or on shore), he isn’t ready to kayak. Even if you don’t mind your dog jumping in and out of the kayak to play or chase some fish, it’s necessary for him to listen when you command him to come back to the boat or stay inside. Big storms, motorboats, jet skis, and unfriendly creatures in the water could pose a serious risk to you both, and his understanding of the commands is crucial to a safe—and fun—trip.
- What kind of kayak do you have/want to purchase? Sit-on designs are easier for dogs to get in and out of, especially if entering from the water. Sit-in designs are better at containing them, however, and will keep dogs dryer in cold weather.
- Where will you be kayaking? Cold or warm climates? Rough or calm water? Isolated areas, or heavily populated ones? All of these factors matter in terms of your dog’s temperament and how well he’ll handle kayaking, and will likely affect the kind of kayak you purchase, as well.
Note: you should purchase your dog a life vest, even if he’s a great swimmer. Dogs can drown just as quickly as humans, and the signs of struggling are rarely obvious until it’s too late.
Top 5 Best Kayaks for Dogs Reviews
1. Perception Tribe 13.5 Kayak Review
The Tribe is a definite favorite for kayaking with your four-legged friend; the tandem design is reconfigurable, so you can fit two adults and your dog, an adult and child with a dog, or one adult and two dogs (or more), with plenty of legroom for everyone.
The hard shell is constructed in one piece and reinforced where impact and abrasions are most likely, so you don’t have to worry about your dog’s nails scratching it up, no matter how clumsy he might be getting on and off the boat—which, thanks to the sit-on-top design and low profile, will be easy.
The Tribe is one of the best models for the money you’ll find, and has the durable construction and legroom that kayaking with a dog demands. Its hull is strong and low, making it easy for your pup to climb in and out from the water. It’s also a nice family kayak, since it can comfortably fit two adults and a child, seated on the center seat well. We recommend this to all kayakers looking to paddle out with their pooch; the only downside, of course, might be storage and transportation, since it is fairly large.
2. Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem Kayak Review
The Sport Fisher is a lot like the Perception Tribe: advertised as a tandem, but with a versatile design that can fit three passengers if one is a child or pet. This model is only 10’ long, though, which will work much better for some buyers’ vehicles and needs.
The front seat rest could be removed for more room, if you have a very large dog, although most will fit comfortably between the seats or at the front, if you don’t mind not using your open storage.
The 3rd passenger well is located below and in front of the stern seat, which means a youth passenger or pet would essentially sit between the rear passenger’s legs, unlike the mid-ship seat well in the Perception. There’s also the issue of storage, which you get more of in the Perception, and at less awkward places: the Sport Fisher has its tankwell near the bow, between the front passenger’s calves—which is the most likely spot for a dog, as well. Overall, this is a solid option…but if you have the room for an extra three feet of kayak, we recommend the Perception Tribe 13’.
3. Riot Kayaks Intrigue MK II Tandem Kayak Review
While sit-on styles are perfect for pups who love jumping in and out of the water at will, some owners would prefer a more secured option.
The MK II is a sit-in style, so your dog can sit pretty on his own cushion, right inside the hull, without disturbing any storage areas (or stealing your leg room).
The main downside of this tandem is that your dog’s size really matters here. Sit-on styles offer more configuration possibilities, and often let the dog relax at the bow or mid-ship, on deck; this option requires them to be inside the hull, however, instead of on top. This means you’ll have to limit your passengers to yourself and the pet, or keep the dog in the rear cockpit with you. We recommend the Intrigue MKII to any kayakers who want their dog along for the ride, but in a contained vessel for safety (or to keep them dry, like when paddling in cold-water climates). It could be especially beneficial for older dogs or puppies, who’d have trouble keeping their footing on an open deck.
4. Emotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-on-Top Kayak, 12’ Review
The Spitfire Tandem is an affordable and simple option, ideal for kayakers looking to get back to basics—or beginners just getting the hang of things. Its low, sit-on design is roomy but efficient, with just enough room for two adults and most dogs.
If you’ve got a large canine on your hands, however, you might need to trade one human passenger out.
The Spitfire is roomier than it looks, so most people won’t have to choose between their rowing partner and dear old Rover (unless your dog loves plenty of room to stretch and relax). We recommend this model to paddlers in warm climates, whose dog enjoys diving into the water and doesn’t mind sharing his space.
5. Bestway Lite Rapid X2 Kayak Review
Finally, we’ve come to a choice you might not expect: an inflatable. Of course, there are some pet owners who wouldn’t dream of sticking their dog in something like this, for fear their nails could puncture it—but the Rapid X2 is built very durably, and most dogs (barring they won’t be jumping off and climbing back in) will do just fine, thanks to triple-layer, reinforced vinyl.
Another bonus: this kayak is lightweight and easy to store, since you can simply deflate it and roll it up until the next outing.
We’d recommend the Rapid X2 from Bestway to owners with calm or older dogs, who won’t be eager to leave the kayak; the vinyl is strong enough to withstand plenty, but repeated scratches from a dog’s claws as they jump out of or climb into the vessel could do damage over time. They could also upset the weight balance when launching themselves into the water, causing a “trampoline” effect. With that in mind, this model is ideal for dogs who just want to be on the water—not in it—and owners who love paddling in colder climates, but would rather avoid the confines of a sit-in kayak.
For many people, their dog is a part of their family. They accompany them on car rides, vacations—and sometimes, even business trips! If you’re a kayaker, chances are you love nature just as much as your dog does, and there’s nothing sadder than paddling out while your pooch watches from shore. Kayaking with your dog, however, ensures an exciting time for both of you, along with all the fresh air and exercise they (and you) can handle.